Deen van Meer

Andrew Varela stars as Javert in the 25th anniversary touring production of "Les Miserables."

Theater review: National tour of 'Les Miz' has never-ending big moments

Published: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 3:45 pm | Page 3D

The grand spectacle of über-musical "Les Misérables" has been retooled, but the production's essence remains. There are no small, intimate moments in this story that cannot be made large and outsized. In truth, the spirit of this longest running of all musicals is that the bigness of the current moment on stage can only be matched by the bigness of the next moment to come.

The 25th anniversary tour of "Les Misérables," presented by Broadway Sacramento at the Community Center Theater, marks the sixth time that a national touring company of the musical has played Sacramento. This is the first time since 2003 the sung-through musical has played here, not counting a Music Circus production in 2007 at the Wells Fargo Pavilion.

Set in 19th century France and based on the novel by Victor Hugo, "Les Miz," as it's commonly known, has such unlikely legs that a major motion picture based on the musical was released last year. The Oscar-winning film starring Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway has mainly shown there cannot be too much "Les Miz" – the live touring companies have not suffered from the exposure. Tickets are rapidly becoming scarce for the current two-week Sacramento run.

To freshen up the new production, the famous onstage turntable has been replaced by dramatic back-wall projections based on Hugo's own paintings of Paris in the 1800s.

The epic story is equal parts love, obsession, history, sacrifice and grit. At its heart is the former peasant Jean Valjean (Peter Lockyer), who spent 19 years on a prison chain gang for stealing bread to feed his brother's needy family. After he's released, Valjean has another legal trangression and faces more jail time, but he receives a reprieve that allows him to start a new life.

Valjean becomes a father to the orphan Cosette (Julie Benko), who knows nothing of his violent past, and though he becomes a good, productive man, Valjean remains hunted by the relentless Inspector Javert (Andrew Varela).

To satisfy the demands of the score, all of the cast members have magnificent voices. Just about every song is a power ballad that requires some belting in its dramatic coda.

The principals Lockyer and Varela are strong throughout and are ably supported by Benko's innocent Cosette, Briana Carlson-Goodman's tragic Eponine and Devin Ilaw's romantic Marius.

The 16-piece orchestra does much of the evening's heavy lifting as it performs the dense, continuous score.


LES MISERABLES

Three stars

What: Broadway Sacramento presents the 25th anniversary tour of "Les Misérables," the musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer from the original text by Alain Boublil.

When: 8 p.m. today and Tuesday through June 8; 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. matinees today and Sunday, Thursday and June 8-9 (last show).

Where: Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento

Tickets: $24-$91

Information: (916) 808-5181, (916) 557-1999, www.BroadwaySacramento.com

Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes including one intermission.

Call The Bee's Call The Bee's Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Marcus Crowder



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